The contact center had trouble with associates who were rude and abrupt with customers. The director tried training, team meetings, and even the threat of disciplinary action.
The company hired me to help them fix the problem. It took me just five minutes. It's not because I'm a wizard. (Or, am I?) It's because I was able to see the problem from a fresh perspective.
The problem stemmed from hold times that stretched as long as 30 minutes in the morning. Contact center associates got stressed out when they knew people were waiting. They anticipated that those customers would be angry at them when they finally got on the phone. This caused them to come across as abrupt as they tried to hustle through each call.
The solution was also simple. A minor adjustment to the contact center's schedule put more associates on the phone during busy times and gave them less coverage when they didn't need it.
How could they miss such an obvious solution? Sometimes, what's obvious isn't so obvious. Here are some reasons why that happens:
This is a phenomenon that occurs when you focus so much on one thing, that something else becomes hidden, even when it would otherwise be obvious.
The contact center leader was so fixated on her agents being rude to customers that she couldn't see what was causing it. She just wanted them to stop.
We tend to see things from a singular perspective. The challenge is that perspective might not be the complete picture.
The contact center leader looked at agent rudeness as a behavioral issue. This made it difficult for her to see it was really the symptom of another problem.
You can experience a classic example of framing here.
Speed can be a paradox. Moving faster can create additional problems that take extra time to solve. Sometimes, you have to work slow to go fast.
The contact center associates came across as rude and abrupt because they were trying to work fast. In many cases, this made calls take even longer and created a self-reinforcing cycle. Longer calls led to longer wait times which led to more stress and then even longer calls.
There are plenty of examples of serving faster by slowing down, such as this contact center that became more efficient when they stopped holding agents accountable for talk time.
Many customer service problems can be solved by making sure frontline employees are aware of the issue. This short video explains how to do that.
You can also try using this Quick Fix Checklist to help identify some common root causes for customer service problems.
Finally, I highly recommend Edward De Bono's book, Lateral Thinking. It's a creativity manual, but the timeless techniques De Bono describes are perfect for solving customer service problems.